2012 and beyond

world astrology for 2012

It’s all in the stars

by Mac McLaughlin

 

• I guess we’re holding our collective breath as we ponder the significance of the much-anticipated apocalyptic date of December 21, 2012. The Mayan calendar ends on that date and all kinds of predictions have sprung up. Some say the world will end and others believe Armageddon is in the works. Some chime in with the idea that a great spiritual transformation may take place. God will return and all will be well. It is thought the events that take place at the end of the Mayan calendar will lead us in a new direction. Supposedly, the mysterious planet Nibiru will crash into the Earth on this date or brush quite close to it causing a polar shift. Its impact will change life on Earth, etc, etc. My head is spinning and I need a nap. I have drawn a horoscope for the moment of the winter solstice on December 21, 2012 and outside of the Sun aligning with the galactic centre not much more is going on. There is no planetary line-up to worry about. Nibiru is not in sight and, as far as I’m concerned, God never left the planet and there is no need to return to a place you are already at.

There are some very significant events that have come to pass in 2012 that you might find of interest. Neptune entered the tropical sign Pisces on February 3, 2012 and his visit will last until January 2026. We may not have noticed Neptune’s direct effect because it is mostly hidden, but when you consider what Neptune and Pisces are all about, things start to make sense, sort of.

Neptune is our connection to the astral world and the planes above and below the physical plane. On the positive side of the ledger, Neptune/Pisces combinations are all about service, compassion, healing, divinity, ecstasy, humanitarian love and universal concepts of love. The story that touched my heart the most in 2012 was about the teacher Carrie Gelson and her efforts to help the children that come to school hungry and without adequate clothing. Many in our community were moved greatly and a great outpouring of generosity ensued. This story was a bit close to the bone, however, because I was one of those children that the generous society helped out long ago. This is what is needed, more now than ever before.

As the great Masters have taught us, love is the only commodity that increases when given out. The overall impact of Neptune’s planetary contribution to humanity is within its capacity to help pry our fingers off of the material world and compel us to look within for the treasures that await the thirsty, intrepid traveller. On the negative side of the coin, Neptune can wreak havoc and cause all types of confusion, distortion and dissolution. Neptune rules the seas, oceans, water and all liquids. The question has come up in 2012 as to what we will do with the pipeline and shipment of oil through BC. The threat to our pristine waters and land is a nightmare none of us ever want to face and now the question is right in front of us.

While the general public would not likely have been aware of it, rabid star gazing astrologers have noticed that our national horoscope drawn up for July 1, 1867 is receiving some pretty intense planetary energy indicating that 2012 may have been a dynamic and possibly troubling time in our nation’s capital with much more to come in 2013, 14 and 15. The saying “The fun has just begun” seems to fit the bill nicely. In ancient times, the only horoscope of significance would be that of the king or emperor. Whichever fate befell him was also taken as the fate of the nation. Stephen Harper is our equivalent of the ancient king and his horoscope is showing he is powerful and persuasive and also very wilful and immovable in his ways.

A massive tide of resistance may arise in the next two years, as all kinds of fallout begin to make the news. Fierce opposition is bound to manifest especially if British Columbians get the pipeline shoved down their throats. Mr. Harper will have to go easy, as the stars are not in their most generous dispositions regarding his personal horoscope; 2013 could be a time of grave and serious concerns for the man and he will have to be on his toes to handle the incomings from all sides. The art of compromise will work wonders where power trips backfire immensely.

Overall, we may find that 2013 and onward is going to be a test of our collective spirit as we work towards cohesion, peace and harmony. Major changes are in the wind and, of course, we are the wind and our collective objective will take form as we go. The federal government has implemented maximum/minimum sentences for those that break the law. All this just as the rest of society is waking up to the fact that the drug war has not worked and people everywhere have started to get with the idea of changing the laws and legalizing drugs. The bad guys have benefitted and we have lost out on the revenue. It’s a no brainer. We will tire of those that continue to drag their feet and continue to hinder the process of growth and development. Obviously, drugs are a medical concern and we can then free up our brave crime fighters, clear up the courts and get on with helping one another to cope and carry on in these very complex times.

Mac McLaughlin has been a practising, professional astrologer for more than four decades. His popular Straight Stars column ran in Vancouver’s largest weekly newspaper for 11 years.Email mac@macsstars.com or call 604-731-1109.

image © Starblue

Giving and receiving artfully

by Joseph Roberts

• Gift giving on your mind? Mulling over your options for the season? There are many unique ways to give. Gifts that heal or bring the recipient into a deeper relationship with themselves, such as seminars, workshops, personal coaching, and healing sessions, are thoroughly appreciated.

Consider a gift that supports our local community rather than sending your dollars across international borders. Give a treasured experience, rather than just more stuff soon sent to a landfill or a storage locker after the next decluttering frenzy. There are a number of services, events or products right here in this edition of Common Ground that will make a memorable impact on the lives of those closest to you.

Also you can give the gift of yourself by volunteering.

What about a gift to our Home and Native Land? The Canadian Government could be receiving billions in lost revenues now escaping into offshore tax havens. Some of Canada’s “elite” do not pay taxes that would support our economy. A conservative estimate indicates that 80 billion dollars of tax are not being collected from the super rich of our country. That would be a great gift to our economy.

Remember much of this wealth creation was only possible because the infrastructure used was originally financed by public purses, so it’s only fair the rich pay their honest share.

Even with the recent P3s (Private-Public Partnerships) the public taxpayer is left holding the debt.

A blog by Keith Reynolds states: “For the main part, in British Columbia we have not even begun to ask questions about these P3 projects. Since 2002 the BC government has crafted P3s for roads, bridges, hospitals and water treatment plants.  Under the deals the private sector puts up all or part of the capital costs in return for a 35 year contract with guaranteed inflation protection to manage a public sector facility.”

These are complicated deals, not just simple sales transactions with a buyer on one side and a seller on the other. Reynolds concludes, “… it is only a matter of time before we begin to see here the same cracks that are appearing in the UK’s P3 projects. Our roads, bridges and hospitals are becoming chips in the international financial casino and BC taxpayers will not win at that table.” They privatized BC Rail and BC Gas. Privateers are now gunning for BC Hydro.

BC’s disgraced premier ends up as Canadian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. Maybe a plum for selling BC’s public assets cheap to foreign venture capitalists. Upping the game globally is FIPA, Harper’s new Foreign Investment Protection Agreement negotiated secretly offshore in Russia.

Mark Carney, head of the Bank of Canada, a Goldman Sachs alumni, just got the nod to become head of the Bank of England. Jolly good, eh?

Back home Bill Reid’s sculptures Raven and the First Man, and, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii got dumped from our $20 dollar bill and replaced with a war memorial. The quote on the beautiful old bill read “Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?” – Gabrielle Roy. Go read it while you can. “There’s some kind of peculiar irony in the fact that a statement of the indispensability of the arts is inscribed right on our money, when money is the very thing that the arts in Canada are so short of … in BC it seems that the arts and money coincide mainly on paper – on the twenty dollar bill and nowhere else. BC doesn’t just receive the least provincial funding per capita of any Canadian province – it’s dead last, and by a very, very large margin. … $6.50 per capita compared to the $26 per capita national provincial average.” local artists stated.

Well folks, its not even on the money any more. The new plastic $20 features the Vimy Ridge war memorial with poppies sprouting form the zero. No mention of the arts. Not even a line of poetry “Lest we forget”.

So remember how precious you and others are.

Many blessings and wonderful gifts of the season.

You say yes, I say no

embracing uncertainty in vaccine policy

DRUG BUST by Alan Cassels

• The people’s briefing note on prescription drugs
Portrait of columnist Alan Cassels

I have to make an admission: I’m somewhat of a coward in that I’m not particularly crazy about getting in the middle of a war. That’s why I don’t really like writing about vaccines; there are few things in healthcare as polarizing, fiercely debated and spiked with invective as the topic of vaccines. As I write this, Israel is bombing Gaza and militants are firing missiles back into Israel.

Makes one wonder if there can ever be a peaceful resolution to a situation marked by so much hatred. So, too, in the vaccine world it sometimes seems that even when people say they want peace, it’s hard to conceptualize what that would look like with the acrid smell of burnt gunpowder hanging in the air.

There are clearly two warring camps in the vaccine arena and, like any war, it sometimes looks so bleak one wonders if there will ever be an end to the fighting.

On one side, you’ve got the very positive, pro-vaccine promoters who claim near-miraculous effects of vaccines. They like to point to the great strides made over the last half-century in the war on deadly vaccine-preventable illnesses. They support more aggressive, broader-based vaccine policies that they believe can only benefit the entire population because, well, “Better safe than sorry.” These folks believe that if we follow the precautionary principle, we need to be expanding our use of vaccines to provide the greatest benefit to mankind.

On the other side, you’ve got a very strident, anti-vaccine camp, whose proponents seem to find fatal faults with every vaccine ever devised, have deep concerns about vaccine safety and vigorously oppose mandatory vaccine policies that they believe will hurt the entire population, because, well, “Better safe than sorry.” These folks believe that if we follow the precautionary principle, we need to be restraining our use of vaccines to provide the greatest benefit to mankind.

So which camp are you in – restraining or expanding our use of vaccines? Let’s just say I’m in the camp of John Lennon, who famously sang, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” Ok, vaccine lovers and haters, let’s put down the weapons for a second and at least try to find some points on which we can both agree.

The good thing is that both the pro and anti-vaccine camps want the same thing, at least ostensibly: they want what’s best for the population – some kind of preventive treatment that is effective, not wasteful, safe and proven to do what it is designed to do: prevent illness. But how does one get to that middle ground? Especially when we’re in love with our own ideas and most comfortable sticking firm in our entrenched positions?

Let me propose a mediating force, a kind of middle ground. For the lack of a better name, let’s call it uncertainty. This could apply to most vaccines currently being promoted to the wider population, but because we’re in flu season, let’s focus on the hotly debated BC policy of mandatory flu vaccinations for healthcare workers. You’ve got the health authorities on one side claiming the policy is right and some healthcare unions on the other claiming it is wrong. How to decide?

Let’s be adults here and agree on the following: what is known and true, what is known and false and what is unknown and which hints at where we need to go for more and better information.

Sound like a tall order? How do we amass all that information and dissect it so that the true, the false and the unknowns drop in our laps? Thankfully, many researchers around the world are systematically collecting and synthesizing evidence, finding the best quality research and sifting that evidence in a clear and rational way that gives weight to the best studies and weeds out ones likely to be biased. They are taking all of the evidence and crafting a coherent picture so that people can learn what has been discovered and how they went about finding it.

Systematic reviews of evidence are produced by many groups around the world, the most famous being the Cochrane Collaboration whose Database of Systematic Reviews holds around 5,000 reviews and forms part of The Cochrane Library, which can be seen at www.cochrane.org

My feeling is that, whenever a new health question arises, the first question any person should ask is not “What does the research say?” but rather, “What does the systematic research say?” Better yet, “What does the Cochrane Collaboration say?” Because most of us have neither the time nor the expertise to sift through hundreds of studies, the Cochrane group is providing a valuable service to humankind.

Much controversy has arisen here in BC concerning the province’s mandatory flu shot, where BC’s healthcare workers are told to either get the shot or wear a mask and to wear a badge indicating their status. (We don’t have to go too far back in history to a time when the wearing of a badge was a mark of shame and ostracism, but opposition to the policy comes down to two things: the science behind the policy and the coercion with which it is applied.

On the science front, thankfully, we do have systematic evidence that shows the policy to be perhaps more political than proven, which is to say the highest quality evidence suggests there isn’t much to be gained by having healthcare workers immunized. We hope it works, but hope and expectation don’t cut it when we’re talking about mandatory policies. The Cochrane review of flu vaccine research finds that many of the studies are biased, incomplete or of poor quality, which makes conclusions hard to draw.

Systematic evidence can help mediate conflicts – between those who advocate for stronger vaccine policies and those who oppose them. But often that systematic evidence says we need better evidence.

There is plenty of emotion around BC’s flu vaccine policies where the province is accused of enforcing Nazi-like anti-flu policies and the anti-vaccine tribe is accused of being uncaring and insensitive to the needs of patients. Wouldn’t it be more satisfying if both sides resisted the urge to question each other’s motives and call each other names, agreeing instead on a game plan to do better research?

Wouldn’t it be better if we collectively focused our energies on the quality of the science behind the flu shots and came to a mutually agreed upon understanding of what we know and what we don’t know, in terms of the flu shot’s effectiveness and safety? How about that as a way to go forward?

Better research doesn’t have to be expensive, but it would have to be well designed. We could start by simply determining how big the flu problem is in BC (and stop guessing at the actual rate of flu deaths each year) and whether vaccinated people did better than the non-vaccinated (by proper monitoring and follow-up of individuals) and collecting data on those harmed by the vaccine.

When I talk or write about flu policies, people often share their stories. The one I hear the most is where the person who got a flu shot says that he right away came down with the nastiest flu ever. And he then blames the shot. The authorities universally say this is biologically impossible. The problem is we don’t know in the ‘real world’ how often a flu jab leads to people getting sick. Without collecting those data, we will never know.

Despite the warring factions of the pro and anti-vaccine mobs, we hear a lot of angry rhetoric, but only occasionally do we hear demands for better science, better monitoring and more assurances that better data need to be collected.

Why not start by all of us agreeing there are things we know and things we don’t know. That there is uncertainty. And that we might get along better if we collectively embraced this uncertainty. Is this the beginning of a peaceful resolution? I hope so. Peace on Earth.

Alan Cassels is the author of Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease. Follow him on Twitter @AKECassels or www.alancassels.com

Self worth

love yourself

the key to increasing it

by Claire Maisonneuve, MA

love yourself

• I have had the privilege in my life of knowing a few people with a deep sense of self-worth and what I saw was they all had something in common, in their relationship to others and themselves – a sincere and genuine kindness, a readiness to be of service and a lack of negative judgments.

This led me to really ponder where self-worth comes from and how we get it. What I have concluded is that self-worth is acquired by how we treat others, what we do for them and how we do it. Let me explain.

Originally, we develop our self-worth as a child from the messages we receive from our parents – “You are important to us, you matter to us, we have confidence in you” – or by their actions: a smile, a look of admiration, a gentle touch of affection and special attention to our needs for help or our desire for recognition. All of these foster a secure and positive sense of attachment. On the other hand, regular criticism – “Why can’t you be like your brother, what’s wrong with you? – a label of some kind of disorder, broken promises, a look of disgust, disappointment or exasperation may create a lack of security about our own acceptability, desirability and, therefore, our worth as a person.

Similarly, as adults, we also get our self-worth from relationships, however, now it’s not from what we get from others, but more from what we give to others. As adults, no matter how much people tell us how loveable or desirable we are, it won’t matter much. What will matter more is what we tell ourselves and what we believe about ourselves.

The degree to which we are able to receive any positive, loving messages from others as adults is based on our ability to receive them from ourselves. If you are someone who sometimes wonders why your spouse married you or why they love you, no amount of them telling you they love you will actually reassure you. That reassurance needs to come from yourself. You need to believe that you are worthy of his/her love. But how?

This is where our conscience and the universal rules of moral behaviour that we find in all the great religions of the world come into play. To have self-worth, we must live by these rules of morality because these prescriptions honour our worth and our divinity.

These prescriptions include not harming others through our words or actions, being loyal, refraining from gossip, not judging, stealing or telling lies, having pure, positive and kind thoughts, being content with one’s circumstances, being self-disciplined and being calm, forgiving and respectful. Note your own reactions upon reading this. A part of you intuitively knows that yes, this is the right way to live. Your soul recognizes this truth because goodness is part of our inherent nature as human beings. Each of these spiritual rules is a portal, an opening to deepening our sense of self-worth.

When people feel guilty, I invite them to deeply investigate whether there may be some legitimacy to this feeling. Regardless of what anyone else says or thinks or any justifications they themselves may have for their actions, do they feel at peace with what they said or did? Did they act from a place of purity and kindness? If the same thing was said or done to them, would they feel okay?

And one’s duty doesn’t stop there. It is said that actions speak louder than words, but intentions speak louder than actions. If we perform a good deed or a compassionate act, but our mind is filled with envy, criticism, resentment or jealousy or if we are doing things conditionally so others will think we are great and approve of us, or we do it to get others to take care of us, the action has very little value. Ultimately, the action will leave us feeling depleted rather than rejuvenated because it’s the intention behind the action that impacts us and others.

We may be able to fool others, but we can’t fool our conscience. Conscience is part of every human being’s inner wisdom informed by our soul. Intentions, therefore, must be pure, unconditional and selfless, without expectations. I realize this is hard to do, but this is precisely what we must examine in ourselves in order to gain self-worth. Our conscience knows when our intentions are impure and this leaves us feeling dissatisfied and uneasy.

Let’s face it; the world is a mess and people feel terrible about themselves too much of the time. This is not because of some random act of God. It’s because of how we act. Our greed, prejudice and unkindness have led us to stray from doing what is healthy and good for ourselves and for others. We are born to be good; here’s some evidence. In 2007, Yale University conducted a study published in the journal Nature. They took over 200 10-month-old toddlers who could not yet speak and showed each of them a simple puppet show that featured three characters. In it, puppet number one attempts to climb up an incline, but can’t get to the top and falls down. Puppet number two, the “Good Samaritan” comes along and helps puppet number one up the incline. Then the third puppet, “Mean Jack” appears and pushes puppet number one back down.

The researchers then take the three puppets, which are all the same colour, just slightly different in shape, and present them to each toddler in turn. Eighty-five percent of the toddlers reach out and grab a puppet. Ninety percent of those who grab a puppet pick the Good Samaritan! The conclusion is that there is an innate delight and tendency within humans towards acts of kindness and goodness.

In a recent documentary entitled Babies: Born to be Good? David Suzuki shows us how children as early as nine months old seem able to make moral choices that were never thought possible. So given the fact that our past environment may not have been able to encourage and help preserve this goodness, here are two suggestions to help us reclaim our self worth as adults.

First, we need to take an honest look at our intentions and behave in ways that are in line with our conscience and soul nature so we may feel good about ourselves. Secondly, we need to cultivate some kind of meditation practice because in this silence and stillness we get to experience peace and calmness. Peace is the first sign that we are in contact with our soul. By interiorizing our attention, we are able to access this innate goodness and capacity to love. This, in my opinion, is one of the most convincing pieces of evidence of our self-worth.

And so the journey towards self-worth is really a journey of purification. Purifying our thoughts, our intentions and our actions. It’s a spiritual journey that forces us to abide by the rules of moral conduct, which in turn allows us to feel whole and joyful while nurturing our inherent goodness.

Claire Maisonneuve is the director of the Alpine Anxiety & Stress Relief Clinic in Vancouver. Upcoming Anxiety and Stress Relief Program begins January 30. Info: www.anxietyandstressrelief.com

illustration © Tanja Krstevska

A new dream of humanity

by Zamir Dhanji

It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community – a community practising understanding and loving kindness, a community practising mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth.– Thich Nhat Hanh

In Africa there is a saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We live in a time where we must go both fast and far, meaning that we develop ourselves individually by realizing ourselves as Divine consciousness and then extending the benefits of this realization to the needs of our community. This community extends not just to our immediate family and friends, but to our workplaces, to the people we meet on the street, our city, our region, our country and our planet. We are, in fact, one great organism made of many cells.

According to the Maya, December 21, 2012 represents the end of a cycle of 5,125 years and the beginning of a new cycle. It is not an end in the ultimate sense, but the end of a process that has been unfolding – growing, maturing and decaying – so that another order of experience can emerge.

At the end of a cycle the Maya would spend the day in prayer asking the Great Spirit, the source of time and measure, to bless the next cycle to be more beneficial for all of life than the one that came before. Through the power of prayer and intention, they knew they could influence the coming cycle in a positive way, planting it with seeds of goodwill that would be harvested over the course of time.

We have an opportunity to come together in a sacred way this winter solstice with those that we love and care for – our communities – and use this day to pray for a better dream. This play of light and shadow upon the screen of the world, which we call life or reality, is responsive to our intentions and imagination. We are called upon to forgive the dream that has not served us and to replace it with one that will support the evolution of our consciousness both individually and collectively. This could mean forgiving the dream of separation and embracing the dream of our unity, of releasing the ambition for personal salvation at the expense of our communities and instead earning it through heartfelt service to our communities.

Our generation of selfless servers must unite in our efforts to love the world as our own body and ask ourselves: how far and how deep are we willing to go in this transformation? If we are to be entrusted with the empire, how do we prepare for this great responsibility? What is the vision of the next cycle we are willing to work towards in ourselves and as a planetary body? How does this look practically and are we able to create a roadmap broad enough to allow the details to be filled in through the implementation process itself?

Now is the time to ask ourselves these deep questions and come to this new cycle prepared to live the answers we have discovered within. Our knowledge is only as powerful as its practice in our lives and my hope for 2013 is that together we develop the courage, wisdom and perseverance to let go of what no longer serves us as we work towards a better dream for ourselves and for all of humanity.

All my relations.

Zamir Dhanji is a local artist, visionary and community builder who chooses to give a voice for peace with the song of his heart. To receive notification about a Vancouver 2012 event with the above intention, please visit www.treeuth.com

Nature’s genius

Portrait of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki

• When I canoe or hike along the edge of lakes or oceans and see trees that seem to be growing out of rock faces, I am blown away. How do they do it? Think about a seed. Once it lands, it’s stuck. It can’t move to find better soil, moisture or sunlight. It’s able to create every part of itself to grow and reproduce. After it sprouts and sends out roots and leaves, other species want to eat it. It can’t run, hide or fight back. It’s a wonder trees are able to survive at all, yet they can flourish and live for hundreds of years. They’re evolutionary wonders that have developed a bag of chemical tricks to ward off predators, infections, storms, fires and ways to communicate and even share scarce resources. In Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park, I saw a tree that is reputed to “walk!”

We have much to learn by studying nature. Biomimicry, a word coined by biologist and writer Janine Benyus, means to copy nature. Since life originated some 3.9 billion years ago, organisms have been confronted with strikingly similar challenges: where to find nourishment, how to keep from being eaten, what to do when infected by a parasite or disease, what to do with bodily wastes and how to reproduce and ensure offspring survive. Over billions of years and in billions of species, the solutions to these problems have been myriad, often subtle – even surprising – but always highly informative.

Almost all species that have existed are estimated to have gone extinct within an average of a few million years. Humans are an infant species, a mere 150,000 years old. But, armed with a massive brain, we’ve not only survived, we’ve used our wits to adapt to and flourish… We’ve accelerated the rate of cultural evolution far beyond the speed of biological or genetic change.

Technological creativity has been critical to our success… These powerful innovations affect our lives and the way we live and think of ourselves. When I did my first television series in 1962, the medium was denigrated as the “boob tube.” We said it jokingly, but it reflected an anxiety about the negative aspects of this new instrument. Over and over, we have become enamoured with the immediate benefits of technological innovation without recognizing deleterious consequences.

When DDT and other pesticides were introduced, we knew nothing of biomagnification, that molecules could be concentrated hundreds of thousands of times up the food web. And no one had a clue that the sun’s ultraviolet radiation would cleave chlorine free radicals from CFC molecules and ravage the ozone layer. Think of all the psychological and social effects… we now see from the ubiquity of computers, cell phones and video games.

We need to look at the way we create and introduce technology. Perhaps it’s time to ask, “Why do we need this?” “Does it improve our lives in a significant way?” And then we may ask, “What are the wider repercussions of this invention throughout nature and over time?” If we asked, with greater humility, “How does nature solve problems?” we might find solutions that would avert or minimize negative consequences.

I’ve always been struck by the fact that when an animal poops, insects and fungi immediately jump on and start feasting. Nature doesn’t waste. If all the “waste” we create could become another organism’s food or the material for another useful process, we might even eliminate the word waste altogether.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Silver Linings Playbook

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

A Scene from Silver Lining Playbook
Staying positive in Silver Linings Playbook

• There’s a point early on in off-beat romcom Silver Linings Playbook where the protagonist, Pat, who has been feverishly reading Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms through the night, picks up the book in a fit of rage and hurls it straight through the top floor window of his parents’ house. It lands with a slap and the tinkling of broken glass on the darkened sidewalk below. He really didn’t like that story’s ending.

As the title of the film suggests, unhappy endings, as exemplified by Hemingway’s classic World War Two love story, get short shrift here. For Pat (Bradley Cooper), who we first meet in a mental health institution, finding the silver lining in everyday situations has become his way of managing his explosive mental condition. He tells himself to stay positive and maintain his equilibrium, believing that eventually he’ll become the kind of man that his estranged wife Nikki will take back – even if she has put a restraining order on him.

The course of true love never runs smooth and as Pat returns to his parents’ house his ethos is challenged not the least by people’s ongoing wariness about whether or not he has recovered since “the incident.” We spend the early part of the film trying to gauge Pat’s psychological state and figure out his obsessions. You know it’s ok to laugh because there’s comedian Chris Tucker playing his fellow inmate, obsessing about his hairstyle and breaking out of the asylum (a habit of his, it turns out). But writer-director David O. Russell deliberately maintains a darkness surrounding his protagonist’s illness, which adds to the edginess of the comedy.

Bradley Cooper shows his acting dexterity, ably bridging the gap between Pat the manic stalker and Pat the romantic idealist. It also helps there is such a strong ensemble cast, in particular his main sparring partner Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, a quick-witted, sharp-tongued, but psychologically troubled, widow who strikes a deal with Pat to get his wife back. The pair’s natural tendency to short-circuit social decorum with frank speech leads to some hilarious non-sequiturs and situations, like an ice-breaker exchange at a dinner party about the effect of all the drugs prescribed to them.

As more light is shed on the backstory and the film loosens up, O. Russell milks the mental health comedy and nicely flips the tables on characters, revealing foibles and issues among other members of the cast, including Pat’s dad (Robert De Niro in good form), an obsessive-compulsive with various gambling charms and Pat’s friend Ronnie, who can’t hold an adult conversation with his wife.

However, comedy and a desire for a grand climax get the upper hand. By the last stretch of the film it loses its ability to surprise with any kind of authenticity or say anything of note. In what feels like a total cop-out, the plot heads off to a formulaic and overly neat resolution where characters, incidents and universe align in true Hollywood fashion. You can see why Silver Linings Playbook won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is by and large an enjoyable play on the screwball comedy. However, it has the kind of ending that makes me want to throw it out of the nearest window.

Robert Alstead writes at www.2020Vancouver.com.

What bullying teaches

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Portrait of Gwen Randall-Young

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them, humanity cannot survive.
The Compassionate Life, the Dalai Lama

At the same time the media was flooded with stories about teen suicide as a result of bullying, I had a mom bring in her seven-year-old daughter to talk about friends. It seems her best friend was in a different class this year and this best friend had made a new friend whom I will call Kelly.

At recess, when the old friend wanted to play with them, Kelly announced they just wanted to play by themselves so the old friend could not join them. My little client’s mom was upset that the old friend was treated this way. The old friend’s mom was upset that her daughter was hurt. Apparently, the word among many of the moms was that Kelly was not a very nice girl.

Yikes! The moms of seven-year-old girls are gossiping about one of them and telling their daughters that Kelly is not very nice? When exactly does bullying behaviour start and why?

It seems there are indeed some innate, ego-based characteristics. The young child does not want to share and may well be jealous of a new sibling. They will drop the old in favour of the new and novel. This is all natural and part of the developmental evolution.

It is interesting to me that we are all human beings, but the variation in evolutionary levels can be astounding. In the same world, we have beings like Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama, as well as men who try to kill a 14-year-old girl who stands up for the rights of girls to be educated and predators who abuse children.

I think the human mind is like a computer that has all future versions installed at the same time and how it operates depends on which system we access. I had a wonderful iMac that I purchased many years ago. All I used it for was music, email and word processing. I just never learned to use all its other functions.

Children will either use the programs they are taught or the ones they see others around them using. In some countries, young children know how to use guns before they can read. In other places, they will give away their last bit of food so another can eat.

If a person grows to adulthood and has not evolved out of the ego-based patterns, they cannot model or teach their children a better way. The mom at the beginning of the article was aware she should teach her daughter to consider the feelings of others and not be mean, but was unaware of the insidiousness of what the adults were doing and modelling for their girls. The message the parents were sending was that we should be nice to our friends, but it is okay to isolate and criticize those we do not like.

Well, it seems that is the fundamental problem in our world. Still. It’s not that complicated and children will get it if we show them the way. After all, in the movie Bambi, Thumper said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” That is a start down the road to loving kindness we all can take, if only we choose to do so.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, Deep Powerful Change hypnosis CDs and new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit www.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.

Ensuring our food supply

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

portait of Carolyn Herriot

• On September 10, 1939, Canada joined World War II to fight against Germany. By the end of the war in 1945, one out of 10 (1.1 million) Canadian citizens would have served in military uniform and Canada would possess the fourth largest air force and the third largest naval surface fleet in the world.

As with everything else, the entire food system got swept up in the war effort. Propaganda campaigns drove home the point that food was a crucial component of war and that only well-fed soldiers win the war!

When farmers left their fields, the women’s land army jumped in to keep home-front food production going. The “Victory Garden” initiative was launched to get urban dwellers to transform all available city land into food gardens. Front yards, parks and fields, rooftops and schoolyards were put to use generating produce to help with the war effort.

An eye-catching poster campaign was used to spread the word. Slogans such as “War gardens for victory – grow vitamins at your kitchen door” and “Make this summer’s garden provide next winter’s vegetables” extolled the virtues of growing food for the winter months. Root vegetables, winter squash and storage tubers were preserved in root cellars and cold storage.

“Prepare for winter – save perishable foods by preserving now” encouraged various methods of food preservation, including canning, freezing and dehydrating the summer harvest. Women got together in their homes and community kitchens to turn fruits into jams, jellies and chutneys and vegetables into pickles, relishes and sauces. They enjoyed each other’s company, working together to put the food by and leaving with a share of each other’s harvest.

Foods were rationed and allocated with the use of ration cards. As a result of shortages, food and livestock were often bartered. The public was urged not to waste or hoard food: “Waste Not Want Not!” Dietary advice given during the war years emphasized the need to reduce meat consumption in favour of vegetables. Meat protein was to be reserved for the troops fighting overseas.

From 1930 to 1950, a leader emerged by the name of Kate Aitken, widely known as Mrs. A (1891-1971). She became a role model for the millions of Canadian women who listened to her CBC radio show where she spoke about everything from cooking to childcare and offered delicious recipes and a wealth of information on nutrition. Kate Aitken’s Canadian Cook Book was published in 1945 and became an instant bestseller. In Kate’s own words, “The book is a handy, inexpensive guide to healthful daily living.”

The “Zero-Mile Diet” is the Victory Garden for today. All those things that were advocated during World War II are still necessary if we are going to overcome the challenges ahead. We are already experiencing disruptions to food production globally due to climate change and political unrest; in times of uncertainty, it makes sense to go back to the garden to ensure there will be food on the table.

Having just written The Zero-Mile Diet Cookbook, I am inspired by how many ingredients I can grow in my own backyard or in containers. I advocate that you start growing more of your own food and putting some by for an emergency. We’ve done it before and we can do it again, but the time is now!

Carolyn Herriot is author of The Zero-Mile Diet: A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food and The Zero-Mile Diet Cookbook: Seasonal Recipes for Delicious Homegrown Food (Harbour Publishing). www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath